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Learning Together: Community-Based Virtual Tutoring Program

Last Updated: June 4, 2020


The COVID19 Student Service Corp (CSSC) was established at Columbia University to address the unmet needs of the healthcare system, patients, providers, and the community.  To address the gaps in education created by the pandemic, we created Learning Together, a virtual tutoring program aimed at providing academic support to children in the Washington Heights/Inwood area. We've partnered with a local school and three other community organizations, which include School in the Square, Nido de Esperanza, Coalición Mexicana, and New York Presbyterian’s Center for Community Health Navigation. Our partnering organizations have been instrumental to the expansion of our program by reaching out to families in their prospective programs in need of academic support for their children. Our tutors are CSSC student volunteers from various schools at Columbia University Irving Medical Center including but not limited to Mailman Public Health, Institute of Human Nutrition, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental Medicine, and Physical Therapy. We field volunteer sign-ups as well as family interest using Qualtrics forms. We then match 1-2 student volunteers from Columbia’s CSSC to each child in our program based on the child's educational needs/availability and the volunteers' preferences/expertise. Prior to signing up for the program, volunteers are sent our brief volunteer training video and a document outlining frequently asked questions. Currently we have over 40 children participating in the program and over 60 volunteer tutors. Last month we piloted our program with 5-10 families from each of our organizations. The experiences we gained from the pilot allowed us to make changes to our forms and workflow that were more centered around and specific to our partnering organizations. We came up with various solutions for families that had trouble using Zoom or Google Meet and were also able to gather more quantitative and qualitative data on the program. All of the children participating in our program are either in elementary school (kindergarten - 5th grade) or middle school (6th - 8th grade). Most families have requested reading, math, science and English help although tutors have also helped with social studies and writing. After a volunteer is matched to a child in our program, the volunteer contacts the child’s family to set up a tutoring schedule and discuss which online video platform might work best. Many of our families are primarily Spanish-speaking. For volunteers who are not comfortable in Spanish, one of our Spanish-speaking team members interprets for the initial meeting with families and maintains a relationship with the volunteer and family for any questions and concerns that may arise. Most of our volunteer tutors work with their child for 1-3 hours each week and fill out a volunteer log after each session so that the core Learning Together team is aware of how tutoring sessions are going and if volunteers have any questions/concerns. 


Silvia Arora, M2, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (sa3667@cumc.columbia.edu)
Isabel Genecin, M2, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (iag2114@cumc.columbia.edu)
Peter Kentros, M2, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (pak2137@cumc.columbia.edu)
Francisca Chou, M2, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (flc2112@cumc.columbia.edu